It is probably the most honorable award given worldwide. People and organizations have been honored with the Nobel Peace Prize since 1901 – a kind of noble strike in terms of avoiding war and violence. Because according to founder Alfred Nobel’s determination once a year, it is a matter of honoring those whose dedication and work have brought the greatest benefit to mankind.
However, it is argued again and again whether the fame is justified. Has the honored person really rendered a service to peace? And: can the deployment withstand the harsh reality? How have the prize winners fared in recent years? A reality check before the announcement of this year’s award winner on October 9.
Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia (2016)
The credit for Colombian ex-president Manuel Santos came from the rejection of much of the population in his home country, wherever. With this, Santos achieved something that few thought possible. He negotiated a peace agreement with the Marxist Farc guerrillas and ended the longest armed conflict in the world. The Farc had been fighting the state since 1964, killing about 220,000 people, 80 percent of them civilians.
Colombia’s ex-president Juan Manuel Santos was punished domestically for making peace with the FARC rebels. Photo: imago images / Agencia EFE
In addition, five million people have fled the violence. The conflict was also so brutal because the US government, Colombia’s powerful drug cartels, far-right paramilitaries and smaller guerrilla movements such as the ELN became involved.
The opposition to the prize-winner Santos mainly came from the right. There they refused to make concessions to the guerrillas if they wanted to defeat them militarily. The propaganda was successful: in October 2016, a narrow majority of Colombians voted against the peace deal – the same month Santos received the award.
Today there can be no peace in Colombia. Observers confirm that the FARc is complying with the terms of the agreement, but the government of Santos’ successor Ivan Duque is not honoring its obligations. This includes addressing rural poverty and injustice, the root cause of the conflict.
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This passivity is exploited by paramilitaries and mafia gangs. Since 2016, they have murdered hundreds of human rights activists, farmers, environmentalists, indigenous peoples and former FARC fighters who stand in the way of their interests, such as the expansion of large estates. The situation is complicated by Farc factions rejecting peace, as well as the still active ELN guerrillas. Philipp Lichterbeck
International Campaign for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (2017)
The risk of using nuclear weapons is currently greater than it has been in a long time, the Nobel Committee said in 2017 when the award went to the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (Ican).
The organization received the award for “its efforts to raise awareness of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.” She pioneered a treaty ban on such weapons. This also included an appeal to all countries with nuclear weapons to refrain from doing so.
The director of Ican, Beatrice Fihn, on a visit to Vienna Photo: photo alliance / ROLAND SCHLAG
Founded in 2007, the non-governmental organization Ican is campaigning for an agreement to ban nuclear weapons under international law. 122 members of the United Nations voted in favor of the treaty, which has not yet been ratified by enough states. But even if the voluntary commitment goes into effect, a decisive obstacle remains: All known nuclear powers had boycotted the negotiations and are unwilling to participate. This also applies to Germany, which does not have nuclear weapons of its own, but is involved in deterrence with nuclear weapons in the context of “nuclear participation”. Many of Germany’s EU and NATO partners also fundamentally share the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. But they don’t want to give up on deterring these weapons, as long as other states are willing to use them for warfare.
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Last year, the United States denounced the INF treaty with Russia to limit medium-range nuclear weapons. An important argument was that nuclear power China does not want to submit to restrictions on its arsenal. Due to North Korea’s progress in building the bomb, neighbors like South Korea and Japan are considering nuclear weapons. And if the nuclear accord with Tehran, rebelled by the US, were to be quashed, not only Iran but also regional rivals could resort to nuclear weapons. Hans Monath
Nadia Murad, Iraq (2018)
She knows what sexual assault means. Which physical and emotional wounds inflict abuse and slavery. Nadia Murad knows the suffering, the martyrdom, the power of horror. The young Jesuit also knows what it means to be a victim of genocide. To see what war criminals and terrorists do to others.
It has been more than six years since the jihadists of the “Islamic State” attacked their village in Northern Iraq and massacred all the men. 40 of their relatives die. Murad himself is kidnapped like other women and children. As a sex slave, the “owners” pass her on from man to man – until she manages to escape.
The Jesuit Nadia Murad lives in Germany after he fled the IS. Photo: mauritius images / CTK / Alamy
Today the young woman lives in Germany and therefore in freedom and security. Tells about their fate and that of their people. Asks to intervene rather than look the other way and remain silent when using violence against women as a weapon. For this, the activist was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018.
But the Yazidi’s religious minority continues to suffer from the traumatic experience of genocide. Only a few families have so far returned to their old settlement area in Northern Iraq. This is not least due to the fact that the perpetrators and supporters of the “Islamic State” also came from the Sunni Arab quarter. The fear of them remained because they were never prosecuted.
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That is why the call for a protection zone is repeated over and over again. And there is something else that worries Nadia Murad: of the 6,000 Yazidi women and children enslaved, 2,800 are still missing today. They are still subject to constant sexual violence in captivity – with no hope of rescue. “The world has lost sight of these people.” Christian Böhme
Denis Mukwege, Democratic Republic of the Congo (2018)
The doctor is recently guarded around the clock by UN peacekeepers in his hometown of Bukavu in eastern Congo. They were withdrawn in the spring after some of them contracted corona. Just a few weeks later, gynecologist Mukwege, who specializes in curing raped women, was again threatened with death. Eight years ago, the civil rights fighter narrowly escaped an assassination attempt.
Denis Mukwege must be guarded by UN peacekeepers Photo: Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity
Mukwege has especially made himself unpopular with his demand that those responsible for human rights violations in Eastern Congo should finally be brought to justice. Local militia leaders, as well as heads of state in neighboring countries Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, must fear that they will be held responsible for their involvement in the Congolese terror. In two wars and the violence that followed, more than five million Eastern Congolese have died in the last quarter century.
Women are the main victims. Because rape is used by almost all parties in Eastern Congo as a weapon in the struggle for power. Mukwege is one of the few who without discipline tries to stand in the way of the crimes of warlords, militia leaders and soldiers. He has provided medical care to more than 40,000 abused women and given them new hope. However, if the perpetrators weren’t prosecuted, his efforts would soon fail, Mukwege says. Johannes Dieterich
Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia (2019)
With the decision to award the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the Oslo Committee picked up a vote that is particularly widespread in East Africa: the 44-year-old is considered a beacon of hope beyond the borders of his country. As someone who does not quite fit the cliché of the African ruler: he is young, independent and brave – at least that is how many saw him until recently. He was awarded the Nobel Prize “in particular for his determined efforts to resolve the border dispute with neighboring Eritrea,” Commission chairman Berit Reiss-Andersen said last year.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is currently disappointing especially his young supporters. Photo: imago images / epd
There was an ice age between Ethiopia and Eritrea for 20 years. Then Abiy – in Ethiopia the common salutation the first name – offered the arch-enemy a hand in reconciliation. The two countries began a process of rapprochement. Diplomatic relations, open telephone lines, daily scheduled flights between the capitals – what seemed impossible for years suddenly became a reality.
But it was clear from the start: The young prime minister, sometimes celebrated as the “African Obama”, met with strong resistance in his own country in his domestic and foreign policy reform trajectory. For older people in their own party alliance, the formally Marxist “revolutionary front” EPRDF, the changes are moving too fast. The largest population group in the multi-ethnic state of 100 million people, the Oromo, feel disadvantaged by Abiy’s government. Violent protests have been going on for months.
While the prime minister shows how to ensure peace externally, his country is being torn internally. According to human rights organization Amnesty International, 5,000 government critics have now been arrested by police – many of them are said to be missing. Abiy’s government is responding with repression to attempts at autonomy in the northern province of Tigray. His young followers in particular are increasingly disappointed. Doubts are growing as to whether the prime minister can convey the central message he has been broadcasting since taking office in 2018. It says, “Stick together!” Paul Starzmann